Abstract

Sex ratios at birth favoring boys are being documented in a growing number of countries, a pattern indicating that families selectively abort females. Son bias also explains why, in many countries, girls have more siblings and are born at relatively earlier parities compared with their brothers. In this study, we develop novel methods for measuring son bias using both questionnaire items and implicit association tests, and we collect data on fertility preferences and outcomes from 2,700 participants in Armenia. We document highly skewed sex ratios, suggesting that selective abortions of females are widespread among parents in our sample. We also provide evidence that sex-selective abortions are underreported, which highlights the problem of social desirability bias. We validate our methods and demonstrate that conducting implicit association tests can be a successful strategy for measuring the relative preference for sons and daughters when social desirability is a concern. We investigate the structure of son-biased fertility preferences within households, across families, and between regions in Armenia, using measures of son bias at the level of the individual decision-maker. We find that men are, on average, considerably more son-biased than women. We also show that regional differences in son bias exist and that they appear unrelated to the socioeconomic composition of the population. Finally, we estimate the degree of spousal correlation in son bias and discuss whether husbands are reliably more son-biased than their wives.

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Supplementary data